Tuesday, September 28, 2010

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – Wrong Side of the Bed Edition

ChainFenceBed Nothing about writing this week’s entry felt normal.  Internet issues (who knows what clogged the tubes?) prevented me from downloading the tracks in a reasonable amount of time, pushing back my writing schedule.  There are only two songs, which means fewer opportunities to compare within a given artists’ work or make unfair (yet hopefully amusing) comparisons between two disparate genres.  And further issues connecting to the Audiosurf serves meant I couldn’t cull any excellent post-ride comments from the community.

Wah wah wah.

So what can you expect from this week’s entry after all my grumbling?  Slightly longer breakdowns of the two tracks in question, both of which are from DJSimosHis website features a lot of foreign text that my chugging Internet wouldn’t allow Google Chrome to translate.  If you’re not living your digital life on a virtual 56k modem like I am right now, I’m sure you could translate it and learn all about what drove this man to create music on a computer.  Get back to me if you do.  On second thought, don’t; I’d rather not be reminded of my technological inadequacies.

Hit the jump for an already off-kilter edition of This Week…

The Songs

I’m not sure what DJSimos means by “Linear Gravity.”  I have no idea if gravity operates linearly or not, and I’ve not the scientific mind to sift through the jargon-filled subspaces of Internet science and extract any sort of meaningful result.  Perhaps one of my friends inclined to the study of physics could help me better understand this concept.

Were I to take his musical statement as his intended meaning, I might infer that “Linear Gravity” means, literally, “chorus of ray guns.”  That’s what this sounds like.  In the not-so-distant future, after we’ve perfected heat-ray-emitting humvees and Super Wi-Fi, avant-garde composers will create music using the very science the military uses to strike to fear in our enemies (as if the voodoo magic of the Theremin weren’t enough).  This song is a window into that future.  Sirens and lasers fire in rapid bursts to the thrumming bass beat.  Per usual, the transitions stand out.  Swift stuttering rhythms start to sound like the song’s collapsing under the weight of its data, much like Super Nintendo games ground to a halt whenever you blew up the screen-filling boss (technological limitations sort of helped gaming stumble backasswards into this slo-mo equivalent). 

Following the high intensity variations on the main theme, the occasional chill section underwhelms.  I’m not against variety in songs, but here the “relaxed” part is simply bass and drums with all the interesting bits removed.  It’s the part of the chase scene soundtrack where the action pauses while the hero with a hidden past and the fish-out-of-water protagonist engage in witty repartee before the enemy Swiss cheeses their cover with an Uzi.  Unfortunately, when the music swells again, the track’s already curving upward, devoid of the hordes of traffic that kept you sitting upright.  Fleeting moments of fun arise, but “Linear Gravity” ultimately undercuts itself too often to be worth revisiting.

Successful ads match spokespeople perfectly with the products they’re pitching.  Apple’s “Mac vs. PC” ads continue to make bank due to superior casting (though the scenarios in each spot are making Justin Long look increasingly like a tool who simply hates John Hodgman).  Dennis Haysbert’s an excellent choice for Allstate – he’s gentle and reassuring enough to sell insurance, but he’s not so bland that you don’t take him seriously.  Were Audiosurf running a visual ad campaign, “Density” would be a great ride from which to pull screenshots.  Any shot you’ve seen of the game features wide, sweeping curves and vibrant colors.  “Density” has both in spades. 

Early on, the most interesting aural material seems relegated to the periphery.  Multi-toned warbles hover just out of earshot.  The conventional assault of bass and laser synth distracts your ears from the potentially soothing/potentially discomforting sounds in the great beyond.  It’s like hearing a great party through your neighbor’s wall.  No matter how much fun you’re having with your friends listening to your sweet iPod playlist, you can’t help but notice the muffled sound of Daft Punk playing at that guy’s house.  I want to hear what’s out there.  I want to go to there.

Despite none of the instruments sounding any more “real” than the Tesla orchestra of “Linear Gravity,” there’s a greater use of musical scales that keeps things fresh.  It’s not just “Listen to these notes for six minutes.”  It’s “Listen to these notes change and mutate for six minutes.”  And after one of the longest, most intense red tunnels I’ve ever encountered, the bottom drops out of both the music and the track – just like a well-timed thrill ride – before it lurches forward and carries you toward the finish.  Play this song to be reminded of Audiosurf’s potential for stunning visuals and epic rides.

Author’s Note

Both songs were played on the Pro difficulty using the Eraser character.  Again, Internet issues meant I couldn’t rummage around in the comments section, but I bet there are some good ones out there.  If you ride any of this week’s songs and think of a particularly pithy remark, please drop it in the comments section below!